In the ward for young people with dementia, Geraldine Kemper meets 57-year-old Manon. She suffers from dementia and lives permanently in De Walburg in Nijmegen, a nursing home. Manon has been staying at the institution since the summer of 2022. But it is difficult for Manon to explain how she got there. “I had the idea with Manon that she knew what she wanted to say, and at a certain point she couldn’t find the words anymore,” says Geraldine, visibly shaken.
Manon also has a daughter, Berno, who visits her almost daily. She takes Geraldine to her mother’s room where she immediately shows the wall of pictures: “This is Mama’s room wall of fame. “Her boyfriend is on her and of course we’re kids,” says Perno. Geraldine immediately noticed that the look in Manon’s eyes had changed dramatically. And Berno agrees: “You can really tell by her smile. It’s become less expressive lately.”
Before Manon was diagnosed with dementia, she struggled with burnout. “It took seven or eight years,” explains Perno. The extremely long duration of the fatigue makes the family wonder if it is really about the fatigue: “A year later, at the age of 53, the cerebrospinal fluid was also taken and then they said: This is definitely Alzheimer’s disease.”
Geraldine is touched by Manon’s story. “I look at this on the table and I see my mother and I see myself in you. It touches me a little bit.” Berno can understand that very well. “Sometimes it’s very difficult,” she says, with tears in her eyes.
Despite the fact that the disease causes a lot of sadness, they try to make the best of it: “I am also really lucky with my mother, because she is such a positive, cheerful and kind woman. And because she is so cheerful, we go there positively too.”
Manon lives permanently in the institution, but once every two weeks she goes to her friend Maurice for the weekend. “She’s very much looking forward to it,” Perno said. Geraldine wonders if Berno has ever spoken to her mother about the future. “Coincidentally last week. Another resident died here and it’s very close.” Dee Walbugs live there for an average of three years before dying: “That’s that extreme stuff.”
Berno had been struggling for weeks to talk to her mother about the funeral, but that conversation eventually went very well. “Then I’m so grateful that my mom is so positive and that these things are still possible,” she says, wiping tears from her cheeks. Her words hit Geraldine hard: “I grew up with my mother alone, so my mother has everything for me.”
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